Six Story Reviews: The Hugo Short Stories, 2018

Someone (naming no names) was pestering me to review this year’s Hugo short story nominations before the (inevitable?) winner is selected (at the end of this month), but I kept distracting myself from it, even after someone else (naming Sue Burke) did a rather good job of reviewing them too (only with somewhat divergent opinions of the contenders), so now (to cut a potentially even longer sentence short) I’m finally getting around to doing it too. Continue reading


TCT’s Hollywood Interview #28

…with Alice Fitzgerald

The Cartesian Theatre now welcomes guests from around the worldosphere, with an invitation to tell us all about themselves – in 25 words or less. Okay, okay, it’s not as bad as all that: they get 25 words per answer. They can wax lyrical if they want, but beware: I edit with an axe…

This week, let’s give a big hand to Alice Fitzgerald, freshly-minted first-time novelist and the fifth person from Madrid’s thriving English-language literary scene to pop in here–they’ll be accusing me of bias next

Hi, Alice, tell us “all” about yourself.

A Londoner born to Irish parents who lives in Madrid. Also, a writer, mother, wife, friend, sister and daughter. Also not really called Alice Fitzgerald!

What is the most inspirational thing you’ve ever read – and why?

“The Long Gaze Back”, edited by Sinéad Gleeson. I’m reading it right now and it’s just so inspiring, reading all these short stories by great Irish women.

What was your first published work?

A short story called Twenty-Two Years Late, in Litro Magazine. Published while I was still going by my given name, Miriam Foley.

What is the best thing you’ve never had published?

Hmmm. I have lots of poetry that I write and have on my computer. I’d love people to read it one day.

What are you most proud of – in your life, not just your writing?

My husband would say my bravery. I would say my daughter.

Tell us about your latest work – novel, short story, shopping list, whatever.

Her Mother’s Daughter–an emotional rollercoaster, told by a mother and daughter, set in London and Ireland. It’s about our not being able to escape—

What an appropriate point at which to run out of words…

Pitch us your unwritten masterpiece – you’re in the Hollywood elevator now…

What if a woman living in America returns to Ireland to tell her parents she is engaged, and never goes back?

If only one person was to ever read your work – who would you want it to be?

Edna O’Brien, because I love her and her books. I sent her my novel but she didn’t reply…

What are your plans for the future – all of it?

To be happy.

Nice to know what you want–good luck!

If you want more about “Alice Fitzgerald” you can follow her on Twitter, and you can buy Her Mother’s Daughter (which is a rather moving read, btw) from, well, guess where. Maybe she’ll come back again one day, more under relaxed circumstances…

Click the pic to check out the
other Hollywood Interviews!HollywoodInteview

Mini film reviews – Part Two

My early ’18 film-watching escapades have not ceased (although they have been challenged by some rather good television shows and not a little personal upheaval, the first of which subjects I might even blog about sooner or later), so here’s another ten quick reviews:


Brace yourselves for the controversial opinion: Coco was really, very nice. Interesting that (not sure if this one will hold up to scrutiny, but what the hell) it went deeper into negativity than your average mainstream cartoon feature, with theft, betrayal and murder, both successful and attempted — although since “death” is front-and-centre as a concept perhaps this opens the door to it. If I had to criticise, perhaps it’s a little predictable in the core twist but, as is often the case with me and animated family heart-warmers, there was not a dry eye in my face well before the end.

Jack Reacher

Yes, well. This was tracked down and put away solely because the first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor, turned out to be such a good read that it made my best of list for 2017, despite my long-standing and lamentable bias against the author. And this is, meh, it’s fine, I guess. A bit like Robert Downey Jnr. being (imho) the wrong choice to play Sherlock Holmes after making Tony Stark his own, here Tom Cruise’s presence means this feels like Ethan Hunt taking a scenery break from Mission Impossible and having to do it all without the high tech and rubber masks. Something to play in the background while you do other things. But not bad.


First repeat viewing of the year (but not last of the month), mainly because I recently signed up to Amazon Prime in Spain (it’s so cheap, about a quarter of the UK price! (and also why I tried Jack Reacher, come to think of it, and it was watched in a similar manner)), and it is funny from time to time. Woody Harrelson has that easy charisma, Jesse Eisenberg has that easy annoyance, Emma Stone is, an, actress who plays the love interest, Abigail Breslin is– Little Miss Sunshine, fucking hell, I’d never have guessed. Bill Murray delivers maybe the all-time most knowing cameo in cinema history. Plays the tropes well, it’s acceptable air-filler.

Eastern Promise

Another spur-of-the-moment retread courtesy of online streaming. Viggo Mortensen is really good, but my reaction now is exactly as it was ten years ago: that the film is tonally weird, with Naomi Watts’ soapish home life so flat it could be a photo, while all the other gangsters play it so over-blown you could be watching a scenery eating contest. Parts of the script are just clumsy, much of the cinematography is drab, yet whenever Mortensen in on screen he’s fascinating. Apart from in the completely nothing final shot, which sums up the film really, since it doesn’t do what it ought to, for me.

The Deer Hunter

It must be twenty years since my first and only previous viewing, and my recollections of The Deer Hunter were about 80% accurate. I “remembered” a tidier version of Cimino’s film, one that was maybe half an hour shorter and which ended on the striking symbolism of Mike’s sparing the buck, rather than having that moment preceed his return to Saigon to rescue Nick. Still, an engrossing film. The ensemble cast embodying small-town life are excellent, and in the first Vietnam face-off the presentation of traumatic emotional damage by John Savage, Robert De Niro and (especially) Christopher Walken is pretty devastating.

The Founder

Michael Keaton plays the man who founded– well, actually, the man who found McDonald’s and started turning it into what it is today. An entertaining biopic that deftly manages to avoid coming across as a total corporate promotional tool by progressively souring its central subject, a salesman whose admiration for a genuinely good thing never fully overcomes his avarice.

Huh. I just realised that, apart from the first, every film in this list came courtesy of Amazon Prime – guess I’m the corporate tool…


An interesting true crime documentary (as it turns out) about the disappearance of a Dutch expat who vanished from a remote, almost deserted village in the North-west of Spain, leaving his bewilder-stricken wife alone with their only neighbours: an ageing family of four whom they had gradually fallen out with over the years… Mostly composed of intimate interviews with the apparent widow and, surprisingly, those neighbours, the film achieves a very personal atmosphere which gradually expands to reveal not so much facts as implications. The end result is a slow, sad, painful story of a sweet dream realised, and then destroyed.

Public Enemies

I found Public Enemies almost entirely unengaging. Maybe the first and final five minutes were okay (noticeable that supporting characters are critical to the action at both ends – Depp and Bale do not work Michael Mann’s De Niro/Pacino magic here), but the rest was a great big nothing, starting with a script that would be most easily delivered by ventriloquist dummies, given how jaw-droppingly obvious every other line of dialogue turned out to be. And while sometimes it had a certain visual style, more often I felt like I was watching a TV show. Yeah, not good at all.


My god, it’s good. It’s so good. It’s non-stop good. I remember laughing at this when I was, I dunno, eight or ten years old, and over three-quarters of my life later I’m still just pissing myself for an hour and a half. This time around I revisited a major juvenile crush on Julie Hagerty (actually all the cabin-crew turned off my no smoking sign), and was extra happy to discover that, I think, I’d only ever seen a slightly-sanitised-for-British-TV version in the past — one of the suicides seemed new anyway. Top five comedy movie? I’m deadly serious. And don’t call me Shirley.

Fatal Attraction

Is it possible that I’d never actually seen this movie before? Of course, I knew the story back-to-front as if I had, but throughout I found myself uncertain. Watched in the present climate, it’s occasionally hard to not see in Glenn Close the embodiment of something Hollywood wouldn’t try to get away with any more, but there’s a brittleness to her performance that expresses a mostly unspoken backstory of pain in a very effective way. And Michael Douglas’s lead finds a balance of sympathetic and contemptible weakness that makes his culpable victim an interesting focus.

Twenty movies down, countless more to come. Here’s the first ten, in case you’re interested.